Sucking Carbon Dioxide from the Air to Produce Gasoline? - Hit & Run

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The study concludes it would cost between $94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide, if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale.

The lower price-point would make direct air capture a viable option to start tackling the 20% of global carbon emissions from driving, flying and trucking.

One of the main criticisms against the development of new technologies like these is that it is all just a distraction from the more boring efforts that could be done to cut carbon emissions here and now.

Plans to build solar shields in space or to seed the seas with materials to soak up carbon have been seen as risky and a distraction to the more mundane but hard task of getting people to cut their emissions.

"It's unlike Carbon dioxide capture that's created to work from a power plant".

The idea was first developed by a scientist called Klaus Lackner in the mid 1990s and since then a small number of technology companies have built expensive prototypes of carbon removing devices.

Because the plant now uses some natural gas, by the time the fuel it produces has been burned it has released a half-tonne of carbon dioxide for every tonne removed from the air.

Carbon Engineering's plant in Squamish, B.C., now pulls about one tonne of carbon a day from the air and produces about two barrels of fuel.

The latest tests and cost analysis were conducted by Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company trying to commercialize CO2-extraction technology. It works by pulling air into cooling towers, where it then comes into contact with a solution of potassium hydroxide, which reacts with the Carbon dioxide to make potassium carbonate. The crucial CO2-capturing chemical is recycled.

That is well below past estimates of about $600 a tonne by the American Physical Society, said David Keith, a Harvard University physics professor and the founder of Carbon Engineering who led the research. But Carbon Engineering say that by adapting existing technologies they have been able to slash this significantly.

Carbon Engineering has secured $30 million to date. The CO2 can be pressurized and put into a pipeline and disposed of underground. The H2 is then combined with Carbon dioxide to make liquid hydrocarbons using conventional chemical engineering technology. He expects that Carbon Engineering will face higher costs and challenges than it anticipates as the company moves to build larger plants.

The firm believes that this approach to liquid fuel has major advantages over biofuels in that it uses far less land and water. "We can keep collecting carbon dioxide with direct air capture, keep adding hydrogen generation and fuel synthesis, and keep reducing emissions through this AIR TO FUELSTM pathway".

Other experts welcomed the study as a step to clear up huge uncertainties about the costs of "direct air capture". The results: Their technology can capture Carbon dioxide for between $94 and $232 per ton, they report today in Joule.

She has been involved in a project in Iceland where Carbon dioxide from direct air capture is being turned into rock, deep underground. We already have numerous technological solutions necessary, it just requires politicians, governments, and legislation to push them through. "This must change quickly if we are to fulfil the Paris agreement", she explained.

"We're not developing a fundamentally new product or unit operation", said Keith.

However he believes the question of decarbonising aviation and heavy transportation can not be met by electric vehicles alone.

"What you need is a way to make a fuel in a place where you've got really cheap low-carbon power, and that will power the airplane".